The acting oil minister of post-war Iraq says he expects the country to resume oil exports in two or three weeks.
At a Baghdad news conference today (Saturday), the head of the oil ministry (Thamer al-Ghadhban) predicted Iraq would double its crude oil production to one-point-three or one-point-five million barrels a day within a month.
Iraq is currently producing about 700-thousand barrels a day. Prewar production under Saddam Hussein's regime was about three million barrels daily. The lifting of U-N sanctions on Thursday paved the way for Iraqi oil sales overseas for the first time since the U-S led war began in March.
Meanwhile, the U-S led civil administration in Iraq has begun paying nearly a million and a half state employees their wages for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Thousands of electricity workers were the first to receive their pay in Baghdad today.
In the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala, a top Iraqi religious leader, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, delivered a passionate address to thousands of supporters and demanded to know why Iraqis are not running their own country. He called on Iraqis to reject occupation and to form a government that respects the values of Islam.
In northern Iraq, 300 delegates met in the city of Kirkuk to elect a provisional city council, becoming only the second city in the country to do so since the end of the war. The U-S military detained five Arab delegates on suspicion of ties to the former ruling Baath party.
Representatives from the Kurdish, Arab, Turkomen and Assyrian ethnic groups each elected six members to the 30-seat council. However, a dispute arose over the selection of six independent members after Arab delegates objected that too many Kurds were included.